The 2018 Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch scorched through competition with the Women’s Pro Junior event completing Round 1, the Quarterfinals and Semifinals before running through the remaining heats of the Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 Round 2 Heats (17-24). Now, both Men’s and Women’s Pro Junior Final matchups are set and the men narrow their field down to 48 competitors vying for vital points toward WSL Championship Tour (CT) qualification.
The day started with some of North America’s best women competitors 18-and-under as a massive day of competition unfolded for opening round action. Each year, the southside arena of Huntington Beach Pier showcases these young women battling for key points toward their regional season alongside outside regional talents here to contest for the prestige of a US Open title.
Maui, Hawaii’s, Summer Macedo (HAW) took over the lineup with a dominant display of surfing and powered her way to the Final after starting her campaign in Round 1. Macedo saved her best for last and unleashed her forehand attack to earn an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10) and a win over 2016 World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan (AUS) — keeping the possibility of back-to-back Hawaii US Open Women’s Pro Junior titles alive.
“I got a good result at Worlds this year so we decided that QS events would take precedent to really get a feel for all those venues,” Macedo said. “My goal is to come here, make the Final, and win it — but that’s way easier said then done. You get here and it’s tough conditions against girls like Samanatha (Sibley) and Rachel (Presti) who are some of North America’s next top juniors. I got really fortunate in that Semifinal. I had priority and that peak came, and just allowed me to do more than one turn which you really have to take advantage of. It’s incredible to be in the Final here, this is surfing’s biggest stage for us and I’m just enjoying it.”
San Clemente, California, native Samantha Sibley (USA) also advanced into her first Pro Junior Final of 2018, eliminating Callaghan.
But the Hawaii contingent weren’t done yet as Women’s QS threat Zoe McDougall (HAW) is into her first-ever US Open Final — helping eliminate current North America No. 1 Kirra Pinkerton (USA). McDougall, 18, is into her last year as a Pro Junior after a prolific career, earning multiple wins in South Africa and on her home island of Oahu. A long, marathon morning for McDougall witnessed her win a momentum building Round 1 win before a close, runner-up Quarterfinal performance put her into a clutch Semifinal performance over Kayla Coscino (USA) — who’s into her best career finish.
“It’s so cool to fly the flag while we can and continue to do so in the future of this event,” McDougall said. “I love competing here, even though I haven’t been able to since it’s a tough one to get into being in North America, it’s such a big event with everyone from around the surfing world in one place. When I’ve done this event in the past I was really young and didn’t do well, but I’ve always wanted to be in the Final for a chance to win so this is a dream come true.”
Following the Women’s Pro Junior showdowns, Vans US Open Men’s QS 10,000 action got back underway as they completed the heavily stacked Round 2 matchups.
2018 CT rookie Michael Rodrigues (BRA) started the day off with a big win over an in-form Seth Moniz (HAW), 2017 US Open Men’s Pro Junior winner Cody Young (HAW), and QS threat Soli Bailey (AUS). A special occasion awaited in Round 2 Heat 18 as Matt Banting (AUS) made his return to the US Open in dynamic fashion in an all-Australian affair — including CT sophomore Connor O’Leary (AUS). This marks Banting’s, currently No. 8 on the QS rankings, first season back after missing 2017 completely due to a serious pelvic injury and back problems — and he’s making it count.
“It was definitely a hard heat on paper and since the heat draw came out before the event it’s one I’ve been thinking about, but a benefit for me is that they’re all about 80-kilos plus,” Banting said. “I had a few bad freesurfs and it’s going to be tough with the smaller conditions, but it’s all about keeping your mind strong and don’t overthink things. I’d love to make a few heats here with not a lot of prime events left, but whatever happens happens — I’m not feeling any stress after coming back without a sponsor and just ready to give it my best.”
Patrick Gudauskas (USA) notched another win for San Clemente, California’s, surf community with a nail-biting Round 2 Heat 19 performance. Gudauskas, along with 2017 CT rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS), former World Junior Champion Lucas Silveira (BRA), and two-time US Open winner Brett Simpson (USA), traded advancing positions until the final horn, but it was Gudauskas who emerged victorious with his final two waves. Unfortunately for the hometown crowd, Simpson was eliminated as Ewing advanced on.
“It’s definitely small out there, but it was really fun to find a couple and Tanner (Gudauskas) texted me this morning saying you just have to love it so I tried to go have fun,” Gudauskas said. “This year’s been a lot of keeping the fire with a balance of being calm. When the conditions are like this it’s about letting that fire off the leash and just having fun. For me, this event is a piece of our history for surfing. Since I was a kid I’ve been coming down here and watching every day, and it’s also a piece of California culture.”
Defending event winner and Huntington Beach native Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) continued his reign over the southside lineup with a dominant 15.64 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The local competitor is now representing Japan as his country and his backhand was in rhythm with multiple, quick maneuvers to put his opponents in a combination situation — meaning they needed two new scores to equal Igarashi’s total — and earned his spot into Round 3.
It’s been a productive year for Igarashi, coming off an equal third at the Corona Open J-Bay and QS 3,000 win in Europe earlier this season, as he looks to be the first repeat winner here since Simpson in 2009/10.
“This contest is so special for me just running down the beach, everyone cheering, that’s what clicked me back into thinking it’s US Open time,” Igarashi said. “Before that heat I was just thinking it was just another heat, but then when I got down to the water’s edge I realized this is not just another event — this is the US Open. First day, got the check mark and now just have to keep going to hopefully make it for Sunday.”
A notable early exit occured for one of the top seeds, and last year’s runner-up, Tomas Hermes (BRA). Alejo Muniz (BRA) and Ian Crane (USA) advanced into Round 3. Also advancing into Round 3, 2018 CT rookie Michael February (ZAF), Frenchman Maxime Huscenot (FRA), and Evan Geiselman (USA) taking the final heat of the round to close out Wednesday’s action.
The Vans US Open of Surfing will continue tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. PST. The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene at 7:00 a.m. to determine the day’s surf schedule.
The Vans US Open of Surfing will be broadcast LIVE on VansUSOpenofSurfing.com, on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page, WorldSurfLeague.com, and the WSL app. Also check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners.